With the 2015 NFL Draft behind us, the Last Word On Sports NFL department continues its draft review series here. Today, the Jacksonville Jaguars are under the microscope. Here’s who they selected:
1st Round, 3rd Overall: OLB Dante Fowler Jr. (Florida)
2nd Round, 36th Overall: RB T.J. Yeldon (Alabama)
3rd Round, 67th Overall: G A.J. Cann (South Carolina)
4th Round, 104th Overall: S James Sample (Louisville)
5th Round, 139th Overall: WR Rashad Greene (Florida State)
6th Round, 180th Overall: DT Michael Bennett (Ohio State)
7th Round, 220th Overall: WR Neal Sterling (Monmouth)
7th Round, 229th Overall: TE Ben Koyack (Notre Dame)
Jaguars 2015 Draft Grade: 9/10
Jacksonville Jaguars 2015 NFL Draft Review
The Best Player: Dante Fowler Jr. is the most talented player in the Jaguars 2015 draft class, but unfortunately he tore his ACL on the first day of rookie training camp so he will miss the entire 2015 season. Nothing is definite with a serious injury like this, but he finalized his rookie contract after the injury and the Jaguars believe he will still become a dominant pass rusher sometime soon. He fits perfectly into Gus Bradley’s scheme and Jacksonville decided to pass on Leonard Williams to select him. The injury is a setback, but he still possesses elite pass rushing talent.
The Head-Scratcher: Amazingly enough, the Jaguars did not make any absurd blunders in this draft. They filled multiple needs and they did not have to reach for less talented players. However, I have to pick somebody for this category, so I guess Neal Sterling is the head-scratcher. Sterling was the fourth receiver drafted by the Jaguars in the last two seasons and that does not include Allen Hurns, who had his moments as an undrafted rookie in 2014. However, a seventh-round project is not a big deal and I am just nitpicking right now.
The Surprise: Once again, the Jaguars did not really have a surprising selection. They drafted players with appropriate values and filled many of their needs. Since I have to choose one surprise, I’ll take seventh-rounder Ben Koyack. The Jaguars signed Julius Thomas in free agency and Marcedes Lewis is a decent veteran backup at tight end. I did not expect the Jaguars to draft a tight end and I also did not expect Koyack to be available in the seventh round. Jacksonville used the best available player approach here and picked up a quality backup.
The Steal: I am still trying to figure out how defensive tackle Michael Bennett slipped to the sixth round. He was largely considered a second or third round pick by many analysts heading into the draft, but the Jaguars capitalized on his free fall. To top it off, he filled the team’s need for another young defensive lineman. He should be able to learn from the quality veterans the Jaguars already have and I’m sure a few teams will regret not taking a chance on Bennett in the fifth round.
Most Likely to Turn Heads in Training Camp: Many eyes will be on the intriguing running back competition the Jaguars will have in training camp. Former quarterback Denard Robinson had his moments in 2014, but second-round pick T.J. Yeldon will look to steal the starting spot. Yeldon has the advantage because he is already a quality pass blocker and he can play all three downs. If he can turn heads in training camp, he should have the starting position locked up.
The Rest: A.J. Cann will be a solid backup at guard initially and jump to a starting position once Zane Beadles moves on. The Jaguars had one of the worst offensive lines in the league last season, but they signed Stefen Wisniewski and Jermey Parnell in free agency and drafted Cann, so that unit should be significantly improved. James Sample will be a solid backup at safety initially and he could become a legitimate starter once he develops. Sample was an underrated prospect in a weak safety class and he will be worth the fourth-round pick. The Jaguars have a solid group of receivers and Rashad Greene was added to the mix. He was productive at Florida State and he will have the opportunity to get playing time immediately if he has a productive preseason.
The Bottom Line: Usually the Jaguars make some puzzling moves in the draft, but this year they formed one of the best classes in the league. Dante Fowler Jr.’s injury definitely stings, but he should be able to produce immediately when he is healthy in 2016. T.J. Yeldon looks to be the only immediate starter now that Fowler is injured, but A.J. Cann, James Sample, and Michael Bennett could all be starters down the road. Jacksonville filled many of their needs with appropriate value selections and they should receive solid returns on their investments in the long run. This team is not built to win immediately, but this draft class has a bright future.
Check out our other draft reviews here.